Personal profile

Scholarly biography

I obtained my degree in Microbiology (Biotechnology) from the University of Surrey.  During that time I carried out a Professional Training Year in a biocides lab (Rohm and Haas) in Valbonne, France, and it was whilst completing a research project in this laboratory that my interest in biofilms was sparked.  I pursued this interest into my PhD studies, also completed at the University of Surrey, where I investigated the effect of milk proteins on bacterial attachment to stainless steel surfaces in milk processing systems.  Biofilms are found in a very diverse range of environments and this led me to undertake further postdoctoral work in the area of biofilms, researching the development of these structures in bottled mineral water.   I arrived at the University of Brighton in 2000 as a Research Fellow, developing in vitro biofilm models which could be used to test the effectiveness of antimicrobials against these recalcitrant structures.  Other work investigated the potential of a quartz crystal microbalance to monitor biofilm formation in real time.  Subsequent to this I completed a postdoctoral position in the area of activated-carbon biomaterials, before being appointed as Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Microbiology in 2004.  Currently, I teach pharmaceutical microbiology to both undergraduate (mainly MPharm) and postgraduate students.  I am subject lead for the Pharmaceutical Microbiology subject group, and am Assistant Course Leader for MPharm year 3.  Additionally I am case leader for two microbiology-relevant MPharm teaching cases (Conjunctivitis in year 1, and Infections in year 2).  My passion for biofilms continues, and forms the basis of many of the undergraduate and postgraduate projects that I supervise.   A strong area of interest for me is the development of mammalian cell/bacterial cell co-culture models, which enable us to test much-needed alternatives to antibiotics, such as bacteriophage therapy, in the treatment of infections, without the use of animal models.  My work in this area focused particularly on the chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections observed in cystic fibrosis patients. I have also been involved in another biofilm/infection-related project investigating the inhibition of efflux pumps as a potential means of controlling urinary tract infection and catheter encrustation caused by Proteus mirabilis, and am interested in the formation ofbiofilms in babies’ bath toys and the potential for these structures to allow opportunistic pathogens to persist within these structures and act as a possible source of infection. A more recent area of interest is antimicrobial nanomaterials and currently I am part of the supervisory team supporting a PhD project entitled 'Eco-friendly functionalisation of cellulose-based textiles with antimicrobial nanoparticles'.  I am also a member of the supervisory team for a further PhD project, 'In vivo protein-protein interactions involved in colicin’s entry and activity in Escherichia coli cells using in-cell NMR'.

Approach to teaching

I teach predominantly into the four-year MPharm programme, Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences (PCS), and post-graduate courses such as OSPAP.  My teaching focusses on introducing students to the basics of microbiology and the relevance of microorganisms, in both beneficial and detrimental terms, to Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.  This includes not only the fundamental theory that underpins microbiology but also the relevant practical skills which enable students to handle microorganisms safely and to be aware of how they are transmitted through the environment.  Topics that I teach include microbial structure, microbial identification, enumeration and culture, toxin production, pathogenesis, disease transmission, sterilization of pharmaceutical products, and alternatives to antibiotic therapy. I like to teach by involving students in their own learning, by asking engaging questions, and by inviting and encouraging them to ask questions also.  I do my best to foster an environment in which students are not afraid to do this.  In year 1, I begin lectures with a 'Did you know . . ?' microbiology-related anecdote, to broaden interest and knowledge beyond the immediate examinable material.  Wherever possible, I relate my teaching to first-hand experience and my research.  I include audio-visually stimulating material wherever possible to aid understanding.  Alternative approaches to teaching is an area which I would like to develop.  This year I supervised a final year project which developed a self-assessment video to assist with future teaching of infection control.  For year 1 MPharm students, who are mostly new to the subject of microbiology, I have initiated MicroSurgery.  This is an open forum where students who have had time to reflect on their understanding of a topic and may identify knowledge gaps which they have not been able to resolve through their own independent study, can discuss the material in an informal manner with staff to promote embedding of core concepts, such that they may be built upon in future years as the curriculum spirals. I was recently nominated for the University of Brighton award for Excellence in Facilitating and Empowering Learning.

Research interests

My research interests focus mainly on the adhesion of bacteria to biotic and abiotic surfaces, and the subsequent development of complex communities of adhered bacteria, termed biofilms.  It has been estimated that the vast majority of bacteria exist in such forms, and these structures can be found in environments as diverse as rivers and streams, heat exchanger systems and oil injection systems.  Particularly problematic is the link between biofilms and implant-associated infections, as well as other chronic non-implant related infections such as those seen in cystic fibrosis patients.  Such infections pose considerable clinical challenges as they are often recalcitrant to treatment with antibiotics. This is exacerbated further by the increasing incidence of antibiotic resistance observed globally.  As a result, there is currently much interest in the identification and development of alternative antimicrobial strategies to antibiotics. 

My particular areas of interest are;

  • The development and optimization of co-culture models of mammalian epithelial cells with disease-causing bacteria to monitor biofilm infections and to pilot anti-infective agents as potential therapies without the use of animal models
  • The use of bacteriophages (viruses which infect only bacteria) as a potential alternative treatment to antibiotics, in particular relating to Pseudomonas aeruginosa mediated chest infections in cystic fibrosis patients
  • The development of biofilms, and persistence of potentially pathogenic bacteria, within babies’ bath toys
  • The development of nanoparticles as effective antimicrobials

Additionally, I am developing an interest in devising alterative teaching modalities to enhance the delivery of microbiology-related topics to MPharm students.

Supervisory Interests

I am currently part of the supervisory team for the following PhD projects

- Studying in vivo protein-protein interaction involved in colicin’s entry and activity in Escherichia coli cells using in-cell NMR

- Eco-friendly functionalisation of cellulose-based textiles with antimicrobial nanoparticles


I have supervised the following PhD projects to completion as lead or secondary/tertiary supervisor

- Elucidation of mechanisms required for the pathogenesis of Proteus mirabilis in the catheterized urinary tract through large scale random transposon mutagenesis

- Bacteriophages as a potential treatment for Pseudomonas aeruginosa mediated chest infections in cystic fibrosis patients

- Antimicrobial bioadhesive polymer complexes for the oral cavity

I am interested in further projects in the areas of biofilms, antimicrobial nanomaterials, bacteriophage therapy, alternative antimicrobial strategies.


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